MinerTalk Mailbag: The Sky is Not Falling for UTEP Basketball
MinerTalk Mailbag time!
Fans have been extremely vocal about UTEP basketball's offseason so far. The fan base wants answers and some are already hitting the panic button for the 2022-23 season. Despite the departures thus far, there is still hope that the coaching staff will supplement the talent lost in this recruiting cycle.
UTEP has seen nine players depart from the 2021-22 roster—Jamal Bieniemy, Souley Boum, Tydus Verhoeven, Bonke Maring, Kezza Giffa, Christian Agnew, Jorell Saterfield, Emmanuel White and Cam Clardy. Assistant coach and lead recruiter Butch Pierre also took a job at Wichita State this week. The last decision UTEP is waiting on is starting guard Keonte Kennedy.
Don't jump ship from head coach Joe Golding yet. Most of the departures were recruits that the previous coach brought in. Golding got a lot out of the 2021-22 squad, which overachieved by all measures. The staff can use the 20+ win season to catapult them into strong recruiting efforts for this year.
The difference now is Golding has more to sell from the UTEP perspective to new recruits. The program is in a better place than the last offseason. A 20+ win season goes a long way with recruits.
As far as Butch Pierre leaving for Wichita State, it allows for another coach to step up during the recruiting process. Assistant coach Earl Boykins has helped in recruiting efforts. Similarly, Chief of Staff Bryen Spriggs has assisted in trying to get prospects to UTEP.
In fact, one of the top recruits they are after in Penn State transfer Sam Sessoms spoke highly of Spriggs due to the Philadelphia connection. He told this to 247 Sports:
"UTEP: They’re in the conference USA which is guard heavy and the last two player of the years were scoring guards. Not only that I have a good relationship with their coaching staff. Coach Spriggs is from Philadelphia so we have a good connection out there and it’s a different scenery from the city oh Philadelphia."
Easy answer. Let's take you through a time machine back to 2004 when Earl Boykins was hanging out after his Denver Nuggets faced the Miami Heat. Boykins rocked the slick red and black Nike jumpsuit, some Air Force 1's and a flip phone in hand.
It will be a challenge for the staff to recruit virtually an entirely new roster. But I believe the coaching staff will embrace the task.
I'm more curious as to the balance of this incoming roster. They have already signed JUCO players like Jonathan dos Anjos and Derrick Hamilton. On Thursday, they received a commitment from class of 2022 all-state point guard Jamal Sumilin from Cleveland (OH) Rhodes High School. I expect the immediate impact type of players will come from the NCAA transfer portal.
As far as this happening before to Golding at Abilene Christian, it doesn't surprise me. Rather, it's more of a product of where college basketball is in the ever-changing landscape of college athletics. If he had success with guys at ACU, he could've had players hit the portal to try and go to a higher level. Unfortunately for Miner fans, the reality is this will continue to happen at UTEP. It isn't a Golding thing. Losing players each year is a college basketball thing.
Well, it's tough to pick from the current roster of Jamari Sibley, Kevin Kalu and Ze'Rik Onyema. I'll leave Keonte Kennedy out for now while we await his decision. I'm going with Sibley. Despite playing in 21 games for Georgetown in 2020-21, this was his first true full season of playing college basketball. Though the 6-foot-8 forward looked raw at times, he flashed his athletic potential this year. Sibley is his best when he's attacking the rim on offense, trying to draw fouls. He has a slick baseline jumper. Defensively, his arms are everywhere when he's at his best. He's a solid shot-blocker and totaled 34 blocks this year. The Milwaukee, Wi. native averaged 5.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and shot 46% from the field in 20.5 minutes per game for the Miners. With 23 starts under his belt, I expect Sibley to take that next step in 2022-23 and become a more well-rounded player.
For specific names that they're after, check out my Twitter thread below to see those who have received interest from the Miners. I expect to be more players out there that UTEP's trying to lure to El Paso.
Two of my favorite prospects so far include Sam Sessoms and Kieves "Duce" Turner.
Sessoms could instantly become an all-conference caliber player for the Miners. The 6-foot-1 guard, who averaged 11.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game in 2021-22, will make his decision on May 1 between the Miners, Minnesota, George Mason, Michigan, Mississippi State and Coppin State.
Turner is a 6-foot-1 JUCO guard that averaged 18.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.9 assists for South Plains College. He shot 44% from the field and 39% from 3-point range this past season. He has offers from the likes of Drake, Tarleton State, Northern Illinois and McNeese.
From what I'm reading about Tristen Newton's strong suitors so far, it seems unlikely that the second-team All American Athletic Conference guard would entertain an opportunity at UTEP. The East Carolina transfer has interest from top programs across the country, such as USC, Houston, Arkansas, Ohio State, Memphis, Gonzaga, Wisconsin and several others. Tristen is eyeing the best path to the NBA and playing for a top-25 team could give him the necessary exposure to take his game to the next level. Now, Tristen's brother, Jawaun could be a different story. The Evansville transfer saw his team win just six games last year, but the El Paso native still averaged 12.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. He has been quiet on social media regarding his recruiting so far. One of his Evansville teammates in guard Shamar Givance has also heard from UTEP. It would be interesting if UTEP pursued both guards this offseason as a package deal.
If you are talking about the bigger picture about UTEP basketball, I agree. But if you're talking about Souley Boum specifically, I completely disagree. Fans continue to say that the transfer portal is killing their love for UTEP basketball. It's hard to blame their frustrations when Miner fans have been treated with a constant revolving door. I sympathize with fans that cheer on a player and then get heartbroken when the player decides to leave. For El Paso—which is a loyal, family-based community—I understand the constant frustration. For Boum leaving, it's hard to argue that this was a surprise. Boum was honored on Senior Day for the squad. He had the best season of his college career, led C-USA in scoring, yet was named just a second-team all-conference recipient. He probably looks at his best friend Bryson Williams and wants to have success at that level. Boum deserves to play in an NCAA Tournament game and he has earned his opportunity to play at the next level. Let's see which one comes first for the Oakland native.